SALT LAKE CITY — Noah Droddy was scrolling through social media when he saw a post that convinced him to drive from Boulder, Colorado, to Salt Lake City this weekend to run the Deseret News 10K race.
“(Olympian) Jared (Ward) posted about it on Instagram, and I thought it would be fun to come out and have a little duel,” Droddy said with a laugh, as he accepted congratulations on his second-place finish from Ward, Utah’s own Olympic marathoner who won the 10K race in 2019 and took second place last year.
The two battled for the first 41⁄2 miles, but Ward was able to pull away at the end and win by a comfortable margin, 27:53 to Droddy’s 28:33.
“The downhill was steeper than I even expected, and my legs kind of shut down, and Jared just scampered away like he does,” Droddy said. “It was a good race.”
Ward said this race is near and dear to his heart.
“I love this race,” he said. “I don’t often get to race in Utah, and it seems like this race always fits in my schedule.”
But running the 10K during the Pioneer Day celebration was more than just another training run for Ward.
The course offers unique joys — and challenges.
“Also, it’s fun to run a 10K downhill,” he said. “A lifetime PR at age 33, I don’t have those for these short distances.
“I think I’m reaching my potential in the marathon, but I’m past it in the 10K. But I can come here and PR, and that’s a lot of fun.”
Ward said after this weekend’s race, he will begin his marathon training for the next Olympic Games (Paris 2024) in earnest.
He said the uncertainty of whether races would run — or limit entries — required a lot more flexibility in planning.
“It was a hard couple of years, I think, for everybody in different ways,” he said of the pandemic. “My wife and I are young; we have young kids; we’re not high risk … so it was mostly just inconvenience. So it really hasn’t been that bad.”
But now he said most events have adapted and runners can rely on the racing schedules.
“It’s crazy, but in a lot of ways, it feels like we’re through the hard part of it,” he said.
Abraham Hernandez, 26, from Mexico City, earned third place with a time of 28:44.
In the women’s 10K, Jessica Watychowicz, 31, of Colorado Springs, earned a win with a time of 32:20.
“The fact that it’s point to point and it seems like the whole city comes out for this,” Watychowicz said of why the race “looked fun” to her.
“I was looking for a good fast 10K for the summer, and I thought this was perfect.”
Like most runners, she said those four miles of downhill made the last two miles quite challenging.
“I was on the struggle bus for about the last mile and a half,” she said. “It was hard.”
Watychowicz is training for a marathon, and while she’s run in the Olympic trials as a 10K runner, she’d like to qualify for marathon trials.
The former swimmer chose running when she went to college, and she is enjoying focusing on running.
“I had a solid, good effort,” she said. “Can’t really complain.”
Makenna Myler, 30, of Highland, Utah, earned silver with a time of 33:31, and Aubrey Frentheway-Nielsen, 22, of Provo, finished third, crossing the finish line in 34:30.